A part for each of us (October 2016)

This month will mark a historical event in the life of this parish.  At Chester Cathedral, on the afternoon of Saturday 15th October, for the first time ever we shall have a Reader licensed to minister among us.  Sarah Dutton writes in this edition of God’s calling on her life, and also more generally about Readers in the Church of England, a ministry which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.   A Reader is a lay person, not ordained, who is authorised to lead services and preach for us.  It is very exciting that – for the first time ever – we shall have a formally authorised lay person joining the ministry team at Holy Trinity.

While this is an important first, do not think for a moment that Sarah is the first lay person with a ministry here.  Because everybody who is a member of Christ’s church here has a ministry!  

If you count yourself as a Christian, then you have a ministry in the church of God.  

God calls you to be his child, and as a result he wants you to serve him in some way – that’s ministry!   And, as St.Paul makes very clear in 1Corinthians 12, whatever your ministry is of equal value within the church, all ministries are of equal importance in ensuring the healthiness of the church.

When I was selected to train for ordination, some people had a habit of talking about me ‘going into the ministry’, or worse still ‘going into the Church’ – but I would challenge those phrases, which are a nonsense!  I have had a ministry in the church ever since I first became a Christian.  That was the point when I first ‘went into the church’, or ‘went into the ministry’.  It was as an ‘ordinary’ member of the congregation, and being a member of some groups within the congregation (such as a member of the parent and toddler group when my children were that age).  Some years later, I myself trained as a Reader.  It was much later on still, that I trained for ordination.  So, how could that point in my life have been the beginning of ministry, following so many years after other ministries?

Let us do away with the language of ‘the ministry’ at Holy Trinity, let us instead talk about the many, many different ministries, which all of us have a part in.  While some ‘visible’ ministries (such as leading worship, preaching) are more obvious to people than others (such as cleaning or maintaining the buildings, or praying privately for people), that does not for one moment make the visible ministries more important.  So, let us learn to value everybody’s ministry at Holy Trinity, and let us celebrate how God calls each of us is different ways, knowing that we all have different backgrounds and abilities.

Another feature of every member ministry is that a healthy church has no room for redundancy.  If you have a limb which you never use, and which does not do anything at all, it withers away, and quite severely restricts what the whole body can do.  So, with a church, everybody has a ministry, and everybody needs to exercise that ministry.  What that is, is bound to change over time, and with our circumstances (as it did for me).  Different people have different gifts, and are best using them in different ways.  I firmly believe God gives us as a church the people and the gifts we need to serve Him as He wants us to – but if someone has gifts they do not use, and are redundant, then we are wasting what God has given us.  If you are not sure what your gifts are, or whether they are being used to the full, please do contact myself or Sarah, and we would love to talk to you about it!

So, as we celebrate this momentous time in the life of our parish, and this important time in Sarah’s life too, let us use her licensing to also celebrate what God is doing in our lives, and the ways he calls us to love and to serve him, in the name of Christ.  Amen.

Tina Upton


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